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'Mummy Tummy' F**k that!

Firstly, yuk, ‘mummy tummy’?? Are we 6?

I came across this story on twitter about the Queen’s eldest grandchild Zara Phillips and how she had attended an event and been photographed wearing a dress that showed she was carrying some weight around her middle, the media speculated that she was ‘up to 5 months pregnant’ and the womankind sighed a big sigh and realised that she was a woman who gave birth 18 months ago and now her body has changed.

They used this cringe inducing term ‘mummy tummy’ as if leading with a cutesy term negates from the fact they are shaming a woman for her body shape in a national newspaper and propagating ideals of negative body image for women.

The fact that this is news at all says a lot about the times we live in.  There are children fleeing murder and drowning in our oceans, tens of thousands of animals being slaughtered and sacrificed, people in the UK living in poverty and using food banks, people with disabilities being failed by the government, yet the news in our papers tells of a woman whose body looks different post birth.

They compare her to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge who was pictured 6 weeks after the birth of her daughter looking pretty much as she had before pregnancy and speculated on whether Zara had a medical condition where her stomach muscles had split.

Because what every woman wants is to be asked if she is pregnant and then compared to someone slimmer than them!  Zara was forced to make an official announcement to tell the world she isn’t pregnant. Pregnancy, labour, childbirth and those first years of your child’s life are bloody tough on the body, you gain weight, your body changes more than you could imagine, you become the perfect incubator for your baby, then you push a human being out of your vagina. Perhaps you then feed them from your breasts, your sleep pattern changed wildly and frankly, everything that you thought was important before pales into insignificance when you look at your wonderful offspring.  Ladies, give yourself a break!

love your body mummy tummy body confidence

A friend of mine is pregnant with twins and I visited her along with another pal, the three of us have been friends for over 20 years.  Preggers friend asked the two of us (5 kids between us) how long it takes for your tummy to go back.  My pal answered ‘about 6 weeks’, my answer? ’14 years and counting…’

Because we are all so different, my friend isn’t any better than I am for losing weight straight away, genetics and lifestyle make the difference and I don’t feel any shame for not looking the way I did before I gave birth to a total of 28 pounds of (three) children over 4 and a half years.

Society assumes that we all give a shit.  That we all are dreaming of a size 6 body.  Dudes, I was a size 8 before the bambinos, I am now a 16 and despite years of dieting, always stay around this size.  Could I lose weight? Yes, probably. But I love food, eat too big portions and spend a good proportion of my days sat on my bum writing stuff for blogs/magazines/books.  I also really like booze.  Beer, wine, cocktails… Yup! And I love food and booze more than I care about being thin.

My family are mostly all big women, I honestly think I am predisposed to be chunkier, we tend to be slim till mid twenties/early thirties and then gain weight.  Sometimes I think I would like to be smaller, generally when I see a ton of women body shaming or when I go shopping and can’t find my size.  Right now I am a mum of three and run a photography business, I’m starting a new career and working for the bloody awesome Responsible Fishing as an artist/writer.  Life is pretty full and I like to enjoy big dinners with awesome family and friends.  These aren’t excuses, I fully accept that it is because of these things (too many calories and too little exercise) that I stay the weight I am.

My body has been through so much in the past 18 months (not to mention the ten years of medication previously), three surgeries and two hernias in 18 months make exercise difficult, I felt like I was always waiting to be out of recovery mode!

ibd body confidence colostomy bag ileostomy women self esteem chronic illness

But mentally and emotionally, I am learning so much.  After everything I have been through I have a new respect and love for my body.  Yes, it has stretch marks, scars and illness but it has carried me through these battles and still holds me strong.

There is so much pressure on women, especially once you have had children and I just wish there was more love and positivity shown towards post natal women.  Mamas you are wonderful! You made a human being!!! You are goddesses!

When you see your stretch marks, know that your wonderful body got bigger to enclose and home your baby, your stomach may be softer because it’s missing the 9 months it held that baby inside.  When your breasts change shape (and nipples, no one tells you about the nipple changes do they?! Yes, they are huge now!) it is because of the milk your body created and the hormones that make your body baby ready.

Your body may have changed, but so has everything else! Aren’t you more filled with love? Don’t you feel different in your head than before you had children? Don’t your priorities change? We accept all these mental and emotional changes for the better yet assume that physical changes are for the worse.

Some women naturally just ping back into the same shape as they were pre pregnancy, some change completely.  Neither is right or wrong, it is just nature.

We need to band together and refuse to see our fellow woman shamed for being ‘too’ anything.  Too thin, too fat, too muscly, too wobbly.

No one gets to tell you that you are ‘too’ anything.

You are more than your dress size.  More than the size of your waist.  More than your stretch marks.  More than your scars.

You are an awesome human being and those who judge you for your physical appearance are not the folk to be listening to.

I judge on kindness, on humour, loyalty, love.  The people I want around me are ones who are interesting, loving, awesome, funny, wonderful, caring.  And I don’t give a fuck what dress size they are.

 

Love Sam xxxx

If the Kardashians are your role models, then you have problems

I do not watch the Kardashian telly programme, I saw it once and Kanye West was ordering the Kim one to lose weight and only to wear clothes approved by him.  I thought it was a parody of an abusive relationship but apparently it is all for reals…

I try to avoid these Karkrashians as much as I can, but my twitter, Facebook and newsfeed is filled with their boring stories of how much they weigh, how big their arses and lips are, who they are dating and what tat they are promoting.

And they are Karkrashians… that car crash TV that you know you should look away from but your eyes are drawn towards the drama and chaos that surrounds them.  I bet they are actually nice women, but we don’t ‘know’ any of them, all we see is the brand that they push into the limelight.

A story popped up today about the Khloe one who has posted a photograph of her weight on Instagram and how she is promoting dangerous ideals to the kids who look up to her as a role model.  There are two things about this story, one… no shit!!! Is anyone surprised that these women whose ‘talent’ is their looks are promoting unhealthy body issues?  Secondly, if you or your child have a Kardashian as your role model then your problems run deeper than her weight.

The family’s fame comes from the fact that one of them made a sex tape.  Let that sink in.  Your child’s role model is a woman whose notoriety comes from her having sex on camera.  Or even worse, her sisters who are using their sibling’s sex tape to promote themselves.  Their commodity is their looks and their family wealth and they have used these things to promote themselves into ‘business’.  Fair enough, but that doesn’t make them good role models.

If you must watch the show then I suppose that is up to you, though I can name a million ways that are a better use of your time.  But having them as role models for yourself or your kids? Fuck that!

Want to idolise some amazing women?

What about Emma Watson? UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and kick ass feminist, she is an actress who earned more before her 18th birthday than the rest of us will in a hundred lifetimes yet she strives to make a difference and use her stature for good.

inspiring women uk emma watson

Jennie Price is the CEO of Sport England and brought us the This Girl Can campaign inspiring women to get exercising and take control of their health.

Camila Batmanghelidjh has an awesome name… But she also founded Kids Company providing practical, emotional and educational support to the most vulnerable and deprived children in the UK.  (Note to add: I would rather dress like Camila than any of the Kardashian women… totally going to start wearing turbans!)

Camila Batmanghelidjh inspiring women uk

Baroness Doreen Lawrence took the most painful experience anyone can imagine, losing a child and used it to make a positive difference in the UK. She founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and received an OBE for “services to community relations”.

I know people say that these shows are light entertainment and that people like me shouldn’t get so wound up about them, but when they are filled with really damaging messages and their stars are becoming role models then it does concern me.  We are a famous for nothing generation with so many ‘stars’ who have never done anything worth applauding.  I am not a huge fan of some pop stars but at least I respect that they work really hard and have a talent.  Footballers may be overpaid (in my opinion) but their role model status is based on skill, training and years of dedication.

I know this is a bit ranty but seriously people, there are so many people doing beautiful, amazing and wonderful things to make the world happier, kinder and more filled with awesome.  This kind of mind numbing telly filler is wasting your amazing life.  Go read a book, watch a ton of TED talks, go to local events, spend a night playing cards with your favourite person, take a walk, hang out with your besties, play board games with the kids…

We are here once and for a very brief time.  Live hard, love a lot and laugh every day, fill your life with wonder and brilliant things.

 

Sam xxx

 

"Feminist" underwear

I saw this post last week about ‘feminist underwear’ and was immediately intrigued.  “Feminist lingerie is the body positive underwear we’ve been waiting for” screamed the headline, now as you know I am both a proud feminist and also a big champion of women being body positive and so I clicked on the link, unsure as to what I was about to see.  Neon Moon is a kickstarter fund to create a feminist lingerie brand that does not sexualise or objectify girls.  All good so far, right?

“By taking the time to support Neon Moon’s campaign you are making a statement to the world that you want change, and your voice will be heard!” – Hayat Rachi, CEO and Founder of Neon Moon… Ok, fab, tell me more!

Using ‘real’ models these bra and knickers are supposedly promoted with an ethos of empowerment, body confidence and the non-objectification of women.  Models were asked not to shave and were chosen for their average sizing and there is no photoshopping in the adverts.

Neon Moon lingerie feminist underwear

Photograph – Via Pinterest Neon Moon

The premise of the bras sounds great, yet I have a few issues with the actual products.  They have no underwires and use soft cup bamboo fabrics and disturbingly the size Large is just a UK 12-14.

As a size 16 myself I am upset and to be honest, appalled, that this ‘feminist brand’ is not including women who are at the UK average size.  I think part of the issue with body issues and fashion is feeling that you are not catered for.  This brand can’t profess to be about body confidence whilst telling their audience that being a size 12 is large and if you are a 16 or over that you cannot buy this product.

The collection “does not incorporate any padding, push-up, or wired attributes, the Bamboo fabric and shape is designed to work around the body, instead of the other way around.”

I have a huge issue with the idea that underwired and more supportive underwear is in some way against feminism? I have massive boobs, these puppies need support.  Not to make me attractive to other people, not to present my breasts in a certain way, but because the flesh in my breasts feels better when it is in a supportive, underwired bra.

When we come to the idea of advertising in a way that doesn’t sexualise women, I feel a little confused.  Who is decided what is sexualised these days? If you are showing items of clothes that fit around genitals and breasts then you are probably going to get someone who finds any image a bit sexy.  Asking the models not to shave seems a bit patronising to me, as if hairy pits are the epitome of what a feminist is.  I am a huge fan of using models of all different sizes and shapes but it feels awkward for this company to have used women who aren’t a typical model 6 but then not cater to the larger women out there.

My other issue is that I feel the brand is suggesting that if you wear lacy or silky undies, that you are in some way not a feminist.  I can assure you that the style of my knickers does not affect my beliefs that men and women should be treated equally.  Women’s rights are about choice, and if I choose to wear a black satin bra or a ruffled lace knickers and stockings, it is not because I want to perform sexually for men.  I wear them because I want to, because they make me feel beautiful.  The idea that I have to wear bamboo, ugly, ill fitted underwear to be a strong woman is laughable!

This feels like a company using the idea of feminism to sell a product and that kind of sucks.  The company have reached their goal on the kickstarted page and so perhaps they will develop their ideas and sizing further, but I am afraid currently Neon Moon is not for me, not only because I can’t fit my ass in their pants and that I would knock out small children if I attempted to wear their bras but because I just don’t like the product.

I am ALL about the body confidence, but that means choice.  I can choose to wear the sexiest underwear out there, it is not a reason for others to make a judgement on me.

Size wise, all companies need to realise that they can’t refuse to cater for a large section of society without pissing those people off!

What do you think?

 

Sam xx

 

Bloody hell! Why don't we talk more about periods?

Tennis player Heather Watson has sparked a debate on menstruation recently when she explained in a post match interview that her performance wasn’t up to her normal standard because she was on her period.  Though she actually said “I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things.”

Girl things, Aunt Flo, monthlies, having the painters in, the crimson wave, falling to the communists and the one that I hate the most, on the blob!  There are so many sayings for menstruation and I wonder why we don’t feel comfortable using the M word.

The media are all talking about periods this week, my friend Chella Quint runs a project called Period Positive and was on Radio 4’s Womans Hour talking about menstruation.  She is a menstruation education researcher and her project encourages open dialogue without shame, she has some really interesting and entertaining views on tradition menstrual product advertising.  You can listen again here

ibd blogger office loo toilet ulcerative colitis

I think it is brilliant that we are talking about something that women deal with every month but it’s actually surprised me in seeing these articles and hearing the radio show as it pointed out to me that it isn’t the norm.  We don’t usually talk about periods in mainstream media, something that is totally normal sign of a healthy body.  Why are we so embarrassed?

My daughter is almost 12 and so our ‘period talks’ started a couple of years ago.  We are a very open home and always aim to talk honestly and without embarrassment about anything the kids need to know.  And so we have talked about cycles and ovulation, uterus’ and vaginas, but also how it feels to have a period, the concerns she has (she worries that she will start and look down to be covered in blood) and the options she has in menstrual protection. (Tampons, sanitary towels, moon cups).  I also speak to the boys about it and my husband talks to all the kids as much as he can.

I found it interesting to discover that professional sportswomen track their menstruation cycle as much as they do their water intake, their training and muscle/fat ratio in regards to their performance.  They even email the coaches the first day of their cycles so everyone is in the loop!  It makes sense, it isn’t about excuses, it is about accepting that this part of female physiology has an effect on our lives, and not necessarily negative effects, some studies show that people are more creative during ovulation.

I love Chella‘s work, take the time to go look through her brilliant projects, she brings the subjects of periods (as well as feminism, science, comedy) to the forefront with funny, innovative and clever projects.  I have learnt so much from her (including this week the discussion that not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate identify as women, something I have just never thought about before).  I have talked about her before and it is awesome to hear her in the mainstream press! Woop!

When I think back to my menstrual education, I think it was rather limited.  I don’t remember my mum ever having a conversation with me about it, and though I lived in a house with her and two much older sisters, we didn’t talk about it at all.  We had a talk at our Catholic Primary school delivered with much embarrassment and I was too afraid to put my hand up and ask an questions.  We just came away with the little blue tampon holder that I used to keep in my bag at secondary school because it gave the silent idea that I had ‘started’.

I was about 14 when I did start my periods, quite late compared to most of my friends and I remember coming home and going to the loo, when I looked at the tissue I saw blood.  I called my mum at work and said “ermmm there’s blood when I have been to the toilet”, she asked if it was from my bum (?!!!) which is quite ironic considering that in years to come the answer would have been yes!  I told her that it wasn’t and that I had started my periods.  She muttered something about bringing pads home and I told her I already had supplies and was fine.  We never mentioned it again.

stains menstruation periods chella quint

I can see me going the other way with my daughter, I might throw her a ridiculously over the top ‘Welcome to Womanhood’ or ‘first moon’ party, with streamers and cake… Not really, but I will definitely continue to talk to her about her body, her feelings and the changes she is going through both physically and emotionally as I want her to know that she can talk about these things without any embarrassment or shame.

Shame is something that Chella talks about in her work, Stains, how advertisers use shame and embarrassment as a tool to sell sanitary products to women.  Playing on a fear of women leaking through to their clothes, marketers have pushed their products on us by making the idea of a leak the most humiliating experience anyone could ever have.  Then there is the blue liquid… and the roller blading.

Advertising does seem to be getting a little better, with more adverts aimed at younger women and better language and comedy being used.  I loved this advert… The smiles, the positivity, “the red badge of courage” – just brilliant!

 

Menstrual education will only get better the more we all talk about it, answering questions honestly and without embarrassment.  Don’t rely on schools doing the talk for you!  Talking about periods should be an ongoing thing, it can’t be all taught in a one hour lesson in the school hall, we need to keep talking about the physical and emotional aspects of menstruation with our children, boys and girls.

There are some great books on the market that work well as both information for children and as a talking point for parents and kids together.  We have Lets Talk About Sex which is a great overview of puberty in general, and I just bought What’s Happening to my Body for girls, as we have the boys version and it was a helpful book.  There is so much great advice online too, but as a parent you should check it out before sharing with your kids.

I think as a society we need to be more open to talking about normal bodily functions, as you may know, my motto on this site is #stoppoobeingtaboo – I say this as the more easy it is for people to talk about poo, the better it is for issues around health, self esteem, mental health and isolation.  The same can be said for menstruation – the more comfortable we are in talking about our own bodies without using baby names or hushed voices, the better our health will be and the easier we will find it to pass on to the next generation.

Chella believes that menstruation education should be:

  • Free, unbranded, objective, and inclusive of reusables like menstrual cups and cloth pads
  • Consistent, accurate, up-to-date and peer-reviewed
  • Supported more comprehensively by the National Curriculum, particularly in Science and PSHE
  • Aimed at different age groups, starting before puberty, and revisited regularly
  • Inclusive of different genders, cultures, abilities and sexualities

I would add to that using the correct words for genitals.  People are definitely more comfortable in using the word ‘penis’ more than the word ‘vagina’ but it is really important to me that in our house we use the proper terms.  When I had my son at 19 I was so embarrassed when the midwife asked me during labour where the pain was, I replied “In my tutu”

TUTU people!!!!

Nowadays I am happy to say that I have no shame in talking about vaginas and because it is just something we do, all three of my kids do too.  We were in the car recently with the kids and a friends child and the conversation got onto vaginas (don’t ask, the topics my kids talk about are often surprising!), the friends child (who is male with a male brother) said something about babies coming out with wee.  My son told him that women have “two holes down there AND a bum hole!”  The lads mother found it all hilarious and when I was telling her about it in her kitchen, the lad came running down with a puberty book open at the vagina diagram and asked me to point out the holes!

It is a funny story, but how bloody great that our kids feel confident and safe enough to ask these questions and have these discussions out loud! As a woman who used the word tutu till my twenties, it is a whole new world! And I am loving it!

So let’s all make a stand and talk more about Aunt Flo, having the painters in, shark week or any of the other sayings for the good old period!

 

Sam x

Periods and IBD

I’m going to warn anyone who cringes and faints at the mention of “wimmins problems” to step away right now as this post probably isn’t for you…

Still here? Good. Let’s talk menstruation!

Now since my surgery to create a j pouch, things are, well, different down below.  I suppose it is to be expected, the new pouch is right up alongside my uterus and vagina and I was warned before the surgery that there could be changes in my vagina especially during the old sexy time.  But what I wasn’t expecting was the change in menstruation.  My periods are now particularly heavy and really painful, they are lessening in severity as the months pass but at first it was crippling, bent over, gripping the stomach, water bottle pain.  I am also finding that during my period, my pouch plays up.  I get a lot more diarrhoea and find myself going to the toilet a LOT.

periods and j pouches poo ibd menstruation

Annoyingly there is little information I can find about j pouches and menstruation, google brings up lots of personal accounts on blogs but little from the NHS or any other official websites.  It’s an odd thing really, you expect in this day and age that you can find out anything and everything online.  It got me thinking about how taboo menstruation is even in this day and age!

I have a friend called Chella Quint who is a menstruation education researcher and blogs, talks and writes about menstruation in her project #periodpositive  Her work shows just how little we like to talk about periods in general, about the historical use of shame and fear in advertising for sanitary products and how taboo a subject it is.

Chella also created the marvellously brilliant STAINS™, a spoof brand that explores blood stigma in menstruation product advertising. You can see the STAINS™ exhibition in the Bloodworks exhibition at Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin launching on 23 October. The STAINS™ section opens with a fashion show and mockumentary film, and the entire exhibition runs until the 25 January 2015.

“STAINS™ is a removable stain you can wear on your clothing as you see fit; it’s a fashion statement that really says something. We like to call it Leak chic. Be part of this fashion moment by downloading or purchasing your own STAINS™ stain from www.stainstm.com and wearing it with pride. Display your photos using the #periodpositive hashtag and following @periodpositive

stains chella quint

 

 

But it seems when it comes to periods AND poo, it’s just a step too far…

After scouring the web, here is some information on IBD and periods.  As with everything on this site, it is my opinion and information gleaned from the Internet so please do see your own doctors if you are having issues.

“Many women with active IBD have irregular periods. When the disease goes into remission, regular periods sometimes return. No one knows for sure why. But inflammation does affect the hormones that cause periods. Nutritional problems may also interfere with the monthly cycle of women with IBD.

Some women with IBD tend to feel worse right before and during their menstrual periods than at other times. Diarrhea, abdominal pain, exhaustion and other symptoms are often more severe during these times.”

periods ibd jpouch ulcerative colitis menstruation

“The interaction between GI function and menstrual function is complex, and not completely understood. Prostaglandins are an important part of the inflammatory process in active IBD, and are associated with diarrhea and abdominal pain. Prostaglandins are also released by the body during menstruation, causing contraction of uterine muscle and resulting in the cramping pain of periods. By this mechanism, symptoms attributed to menstruation and IBD may overlap.”

And I’m afraid that’s your lot.  Not much is it; this was the best information I could find regarding menstruation and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  Anything specifically to do with a j pouch was even more rare!  I am really surprised at the lack of information on periods and jpouches, especially as it seems it is a big problem for a lot of women.  On many of the IBD blogs out there, women are discussing menstrual and sexual problems.  Some of the symptoms talked about are:

Increased diarrhoea

Pelvic pain

Bum pain

Heavy Bleeding

A heaviness in the vagina and pouch

Cramping

Exhaustion

Sickness/Nausea

Some coping methods found around the web are:

Painkillers (a struggle really as ibuprofen is a no no for IBD-ers and codeine can make you constipated)

Heat pads

Bed rest

Mirena coil

Contraceptive pill

Exercise

I am shocked at the lack of easily available information on menstruation and also sexual problems associated with IBD surgeries.  I have found pages and pages of advice and care for men facing impotency issues following surgeries but anything to do with the vagina is shied away from and labeled as ‘intimacy issues’.  For we are but delicate flowers who can’t deal with talking about our own sexuality, no?

I’m not one to talk about my personal sex life on this blog, and the reason for this is that I have three kids who I know peek in from time to time.  I have an open and honest relationship with my children and we talk about sex and all the issues surrounding sex regularly.  But no one needs to read about their mother’s vagina do they!  What I will say is that I am dealing with problems post surgery and I want advice, information and resources to deal with it, yet turning to Dr Google is pretty useless! Where is all the gynae information?!

What we need is to have a more open dialogue regarding any bodily function that goes on within the underpant area.  I find it hilarious (read appalling) that we still have Page Three girls in a daily newspaper yet we can’t discuss the uterus without men gagging.  For the record, this idea that all men find periods gross is silly, yes, there are men whose ears are offended by the M word but to them I scream MENNNNSSSSTRRRRUUUUUAALLLLLL BLLLLLOOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDD…  Most men in long term relationships have overcome the pubescent thoughts that it’s gross ‘girl stuff’ and recognise that it is a healthy part of the woman in their lives body.

So apologies if you found this page hoping for some answers, I’m afraid I can’t give those.  But I hope I have given you hope that you aren’t alone in dealing with this and I hope you will go speak to your doctor and get some answers of your own.  Finally I hope I have inspired you to start talking about traditionally personal and intimate issues that most women have at some point in their lives.  Please do take a good look through Chella’s work and share, it is damn fine stuff and helpful to us all.

If you have any experience, advice or links to information, it would be great if you could share them in the comments below.

Muchos Gracias!

Love Sam x

Adventures in Menstruating image courtesy of Chella Quint

Turia Pitt on Womens Weekly Australia cover – Inspirational!

I saw this story this morning and was struck by the idea of having inspirational real women on magazine covers rather than air brushed celebrities.  Australian Women’s Weekly have Turia Pitt, a burns survivor who was injured in bush fires on the cover and it makes for a striking and beautiful image.

turia pitt burns survivor womens weekly australiaPhoto via Womens Weekly Aus

Editor in Chief Helen McCabe said

“For eighty years the Women’s Weekly has been celebrating inspirational Australian women, when Turia was photographed as part of our Women of the Future judging panel among a group of similarly impressive Australian women, it was clear from the moment she sat in front of the camera that the July cover had to belong to her.”

“Any attempt to describe the magic and beauty of Turia seems to get lost in platitudes or clichés. Yet I have never met a more remarkable person.”

Seeing images like this accompanying an inspirational and positive story just make my heart soar.  This isn’t about feeling sorry for her, its not a poor me story.  I LOVE her headline of “Im the luckiest woman in the world” – this woman is my hero! She isn’t complaining, there is no martyrdom.

Turia was caught in a bushfire whilst running a marathon in Western Australia, suffering burns to 64 per cent of her body.  Doctors gave her a slim chance of recovery yet she defied that expectation and recovered amazingly. 

She said “For me, it sends the message that confidence equals beauty. There are a lot of women out there who are so beautiful but don’t have the confidence, and that’s what gets you over the line.”

I believe that 100% – Confidence equals beauty

Well done Womens Weekly – this cover is just a start and hopefully other magazines will follow suit.  Women aren’t stupid, we aren’t just drawn in by seeing yet another picture of a perfect celebrity.  I for one would be much more likely to buy a magazine whose cover was showing true beauty and inspiration rather than a celeb who I have seen a million times before!

I would love to see a women with a stoma or scars being portrayed in magazines more, the more we see images of people who have physical scars the less taboo it becomes.  For many women who have an ostomy bag or large scars thy can feel that these things take away their femininity and sexuality, thats the reason I decided to do my photoshoots with my ileostomy bag. I wanted to put out there some positive images that show my bag and scars as just a small part of me, that they do not make me less of a woman.

I think the media could be a great tool for promoting positive images of women who have faced illness, surgery or modifications and I hope that this Women’s Weekly cover is just the start of something brilliant.

For more information on Turia’s story, see the Women’s Weekly website

Why I have stopped buying women’s magazines

This year I made a decision to stop buying ‘women’s’ magazines and I feel so much happier for doing it.  Here’s why…

Im not a massive magazine buyer, I don’t buy them regularly but now and then I will pick up a few and every time I did, I ended up either feeling rubbish about myself or pissed off at the world we live in.  When I did buy them I would flick through this dross and seethe at the three little pigs debate on women, this celebrity is too fat, this celebrity is too thin, this celebrity is jusssssssst right.

body image and womens magazines

 

Look at these ‘shocking’ bodies they scream, let’s join together and shame these women, for how dare they go out in public with any sight of wobbly flesh, a rounded stomach or stretch marks.  Lose weight you disgusting creatures.  But hang on, don’t lose too much weight, because look over here at these women, they must be anorexic or on drugs!! Look at the vile bitch whose ribs we can see…

 

Why the fuck was I buying these things?  I honestly can’t answer that, perhaps it was habit or boredom.  I can tell you I just don’t enjoy reading this shit.  I don’t care how big a Kardashian’s arse is, I don’t want to see that Madonna is too thin or Chantelle is too fat.  Seeing these women, big or small just made me feel angry.  It didn’t make me feel good about myself seeing someone bigger than me though it did at times make me feel shit to see a thin celeb being mocked for gaining a few pounds.  When they are publicly mocking a woman for being fat and she weighs 2 stone less than you it does make to question how society sees you.

 

body image and new magazine

 

These magazines are not interesting, they’re not journalism and they aren’t even amusing.  They are shite and ladies, we need to stop buying into this crap.  Since stopping buying any magazine that’s purpose is to shame women I can honestly say I feel miles better and I have more money in my pocket!

When I look at the magazines my husband buys, there are no images of a celebrity male with a step by step crucifixion of their looks, National Geographic doesn’t fat shame scientists or tell us that Obama has lost/gained a stone.  I know there are magazines such as Mens Fitness that feature toned and muscly men but that is more about health and exercise, it isn’t about how big Brad Pitt’s arse is.

So why do women feel the need to buy magazines that demean and shame other women.  I’d like to think that most of us don’t judge our peers by the size of the bodies so why do we enjoy seeing celebrities judged so harshly? Is it car crash media? Or something more?

I can’t answer that question but what I can say is that buying magazines like Now and Heat does NOTHING good for your self esteem, ask yourself, do you really want to be funding the ridiculous judgement of celebrities, do you want to be part of a society that treats people so poorly and pushes an unrealistic and unattainable perfect body image.  Do you want your daughters, nieces and young women to be surrounded by images and harsh words, cementing the idea that if you aren’t perfect, you are fair game to me mocked and bullied?

I dont. And so I took a stand, its only a tiny stand but if we all stopped buying into this crap then perhaps the editors of these magazines will take a look at themselves… Magazines circulation is dropping year on year, the rise of the internet and smart phones mean that most people can get the celeb gossip fixes at the touch of a button.  So think about your hard earned cash next time your hand wanders thoughtlessly over to the shame section in the newsagents.  What could you be reading in that time that would actually teach you something or just make you feel good?

I didn’t want to bring that sort of message into my home where my kids could see it, especially my 11 year old daughter.  Id never tell her that Susie is so fat that she should NEVER wear a bikini, or that Jane is so skinny, she is definitely starving herself and seeing her bony ribs makes me sick.  I wouldn’t allow people around her to negatively affect her self esteem by telling her that unless she weighs the exact right weight, has the perfect sized tits and an arse that can’t be too small or too big that she is not good enough.  So why would I allow these magazines to be around her?

I found a magazine last year called Psychologies, now I have seen this before but due to the title I assumed it was a health mag or maybe a professional magazine, it isn’t! And despite the terrible name it is actually a really good magazine (so much so that I just bought myself a subscription) It has womens lifestyle articles, fashion, home, work, family etc but there is no celeb shaming, no telling you how to lose 300lb in 20 minutes by juicing your own shoes or any such crap.  It has really interesting and fun pieces that make you feel good.  Fancy that!

I get the desire for celeb gossip, I really do.  I don’t know WHY I want to know what Angelina and Brad’s home looks like but now and then I do.  Im not sure why I care if Richard and Judy fell out but occasionally I like that knowledge.  My (VERY) guilty pleasure is the occasional glance down the Daily Mail website seeing who fell out with who and which celeb got drunk at which party.

But seriously put down the crap mag that’s sole purpose is to bully, mock and shame other women.  Make a stand and think about your fellow woman.

I talk about self esteem a lot these days and it is because facing surgery, scars and having to wear an ileostomy bag 24 hours a day makes to reassess how you look at your body.  I could have gone the other way and felt saddened or ashamed of my body, but instead I just gained a massive respect for it.  My body confidence is higher than it has ever been! I am so proud of my strong body, the battering it has taken, my scars are like battle wounds, they are a huge part of me and I love them.  My bag is there, its on show and I could resent it and despise it, but it wouldn’t change the fact that it is there.  So I have learnt to accept it, and I have used it as a tool to teach other women that no matter what we go through, we are strong and we are beautiful.

Beauty comes in so many different packages, my package has extra bits, its a bit crumpled and torn but it is so filled with joy, happiness, fun, kindness and laughter that it is JUST as beautiful as anyone else’s.

The message in these mags is if you aren’t perfect then it is perfectly acceptable to mock you.  This isn’t true, it isn’t how life is and reading that shit made me feel bad.  Reading that shit when I was an impressionable teenager may have had a really terrible affect on me and so I will protect my daughter from it for as long as possible, life isn’t about Mean Girls judging one another, its about love and kindness, fun and laughter, experience and being brave enough to love yourself and pave your own way, being proud of the person you are, not your dress size, and knowing that true beauty is so far away from the measurement of your waist.

And that, dear reader is why I have stopped buying ‘women’s’ magazines.

 

Love Sam x

 

International Women's day 2014

I was absolutely thrilled and blown away to be invited to be a speaker at Experience Barnsley’s International Women’s Day event on 8th March this year at Barnsley Town Hall.  It is £2.50 a ticket so if anyone fancies coming to hear me talk about bowels, shit and self esteem I would greatly appreciate the support!

international womens day 2014

 

Along with three other amazing speakers I will be doing a talk about my journey with IBD and how this and my ileostomy affect self esteem and body image.

Dr Lorna Warren is a lecturer at the University of Sheffield and is doing a talk on a project called Look at Me which has worked with women in Sheffield to explore representations of women and ageing in the media and to produce new images to challenge existing stereotypes.  An amazing project that you can see more about here.

Anne Fay is the head of education at Wallace Collection and her talk on The Beau Monde sounds fantastic.

Author and Lecturer Katie Edwards talk on religion and feminism is one Im really looking forward to.

It is an honour to share a stage with these women and though Im frankly terrified I am hoping to deliver a speech that will explain both the physical, emotional and mental affects of illness and surgery on female body image.  Ill be discussing how I dealt with the last ten years of ulcerative colitis and then my operation and how positivity has played a huge role in dealing with the emotional side of living with a stoma.

I talk about poo A LOT on this blog and the thought of talking shit to a room full of people is both amusing and scary.  In September when I lay in HDU at the Northern General in Sheffield covered in tubes, with my arms full of canulas and feeling so weak that I couldn’t lift my head, I never dreamed that six months later I would be standing in Barnsley Town Hall being a speaker for Yorkshire women.

Thanks so much for the support of all you people who regularly read my blog, Facebook and twitter.  Being part of International Women’s Day is an absolute dream come true and I just hope I do you all proud.

Thanks

 

Sam x

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